Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Million Dollar Answer?

One question which has never really been answered about the U.S. invasion of Iraq is what the true motivation for it was. I only bring this up, because all this time people have been searching for an answer, Jeffrey Kopstein, political science professor at the University of Toronto, has had it all along.

Says Kopstein,
"Let's start with the reason for the war, the real reason. The real reason came out of an analysis of 9/11, an analysis that has yet to be challenged. This analysis was straightforward and forms the core of the neo-con position. It runs as follows."

Here is Kopstein's argument in point form:

1) Modernization has provoked a fundamentalist Islamic backlash in the Arab world.
2) This backlash can affect us here in 'the West' as evidenced on 9/11.
3) The only possible solution to the backlash is to impose political and social modernization on the Arab world from outside the region
4) The best way to do this is to pick a large Arab country, invade it, occupy it, and stay put until the country is set on an irreversible path towards becoming politically and socially modern.
5) Once that first country becomes socially and politically modern, there will be a domino effect and all the other Arab countries will follow.

Iraq was apparently chosen as the target because Saddam was a brutal, aggressive, dictator who wanted to have weapons of mass destruction (unlike the leadership of any other Arab countries, presumably).

I don't even know where to start with this. For now, let's just note the breathtaking arrogance that suggests that we (in the West) have the right to invade, occupy and impose our version of social and political modernization on a country because it happens to be in the same region and speak the same language as a group of individuals who launched a terrorist attack on us.

Aside from all that ethical mumbo-jumbo, the primary practical problem with Kopstein's reason for invasion has now become too obvious even for him to ignore:

"Needless to say, things have not worked out as expected. We now know that a forced opening of the Arab world, or even creating regimes that do not view their own people in instrumental terms - something far short of democracy - is fraught with all kinds of difficulties."

We now know?????

[sarcasm alert]
Yeah, who could have predicted this would be fraught with difficulties. Good thing we went through this learning experience. We'll have to keep this in mind for next time. This is coming from a professor of political science?

Anyway, at least Kopstein acknowledges that this plan isn't working, so what does he propose? Well, nothing really. His main point seems to be a warning to people who opposed the war that they shouldn't be happy that the needless, destructive, invasion and occupation of Iraq which has cost so many lives might be coming to an end. Why not? Because the root problem of terrorism hasn't gone away and the next 'solution' the U.S. comes up with is likely to be to turn itself into a torture tolerating police state and we're not going to like that either.

I can certainly agree that I don't want the U.S. to become a torture tolerating police state and I also agree that, if there are more terrorist attacks there, this could well start to happen, but I don't really see how this is in any way connected to being happy if the U.S. starts making plans towards removing itself from Iraq.

Maybe Kopstein just doesn't like hearing 'I told you so' and this 'you wont be so happy when they start torturing people' rebuttal is the best thing he could think of to keep people quiet. But since his rebuttal has no connection to his problem, this argument isn't likely to be any more successful than the war was (on the plus side, it won't kill as many people).


  • I for one was relieved to find out the "real" reason for the war.

    F***. American blood and treasure poured uselessly into the desert, the unified good will of the world pissed away and US credibility destroyed for a generation all to learn that imposing democracy at the point of a gun is fraught with difficulties.

    Fraught with difficulties? Yeah, who would'a figured?

    By Blogger KevinG, at 7:34 PM  

  • What's even more infuriating is knowing that especially before the Iran/Iraq war... but even before the Gulf War, Iraq boasted one of the most modern, well educated and socially advanced populations in the Arab world.

    Unfortunately, 20 years of war, war, sanctions and war have taken their toll.. especially the '91 war. And Iraqs' modern infrastructure is in a shambles.

    That said, I *do* have hope for Iraqis. Iraqis themselves are modern and, I believe progressive people. The majority lived in peace with each other even while Saddam and his band of thugs ruled.

    It was a horrible, arrogant mistake for America to think they could impose their will on Iraqis. They treated Iraqis like un-educated cavemen. The Iraqis are fed up with them now... but once the Americans finally leave, and the political situation calms down (hopefully there isn't a civil war, but it wouldn't be a surprise), there is no doubt in my mind that Iraqis will demand a democratic future from their political leaders.

    It's happening in Iran, it's even happening in Jordan and Syria... it's just very hard to overcome such overbearing regimes. Time is on the Peoples side. If we support them, they will be successful.

    But we must not be so arrogant as to think we can walk in and do it for them. Hell, we hardly understand on our societies... how dare we try to impose one on another.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:53 PM  

  • Kevin - Yes, I think the one cost of this war that many people miss is the opportunity cost. Considering the sheer magnitude of the financial, military and diplomatic resources expended in this war, it is hard to imagine what could have been accomplished if they had been put to optimal (or at least reasonably good) use.

    Chris - I agree, it's a fine line between trying to support progressive movements in foreign countries and interfering in a counter-productive manner.

    Even with the best intentions it is difficult, and when the intentions are mixed (such as when domestic security back home or trade issues are the priority) the risk of dong more harm than good gets even higher - especially when we are dealing with countries and cultures that are very different from ours.

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:05 PM  

  • I'm still inclined to believe that the reason for war was establishing a power base in a notoriously difficult to reach area. But that's hashed and rehashed, so enough about it.

    The terrorist acts, indeed all terrorist acts, are criminal acts, having been done by individuals. Only actions performed by a state can be an act of war.

    If the people opposed to the UN worked in munitions, they'd have been blown to kingdom come in a week. The UN is slow, ponderous, difficult to manouver through and require ungodly patience, but it works.

    Just don't confuse "polite" with "pushover" and we'll be fine...

    By Blogger Thursday, at 11:24 PM  

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